Unexpected pep talk

happy kid

I love my bed time chats with my girls.  It’s our chance to catch up, get questions answered and talk about life.  Usually I try to give them my full attention and offer some clarity, comfort, encouragement, support, love and the kind of knowledge that their young years cannot  grant them.  My hope is  that on some level they’ll remember and treasure this time as much as I do.  But tonight I walked out feeling like maybe, I got it all wrong.  I really have to listen more.

Eden: I wish I would have a little sister when I’m a teenager.

Me:  Huh. Ok, Why’s that?

Eden: So when I have a crush she can come and say “Oooh, is that your boyfriend?” and tease me in a cute way.

Me: Really? You’d like that?

Eden: Yup. How old do I have to be to go to high school?

Me: Fourteen.

Eden: So it goes  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. That’s it? I’m already at 5, that was pretty quick!

Me: Tell me about it. Before you know it, you’ll be off to high school.

Eden: Wanna hear more?

Me: Sure.

Eden: 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21…. (And then goes on steadily counting to one hundred. To be clear, I just liked hearing her thoughts on life. If I had known otherwise I may have asked her to show me how good she was at counting by tens).

Eden: What?? I just counted to 100!  Oh My Gosh!  Are you so proud of me?

Me: Absolutely! That was awesome!

Eden: Wow! It’s like, I’m amazing!!!

Me: You are. And don’t you forget it.

Eden: I thought counting to 100 would take so many days, like a long, long time. See mama? When you think you can’t do something, you actually can.

the struggle to surrender

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You may have noticed that I’ve been quite silent here lately. (Thank you to those of you who through your support have encouraged me to get back to my writing voice) I have recently lost my grandfather…. and… my footing.  The timing of events baffles me, it seems there is some truth to the saying “when it rains it pours.”  The first in a series of set-backs was dealing with the fact that despite his will to live, despite all our efforts, my grandfather’s journey came to an end in early February. He had been ill for a while and succumbed to post-surgery complications when they removed the tumor that ravaged his stomach.

As I watched his struggle, I became increasingly unable to gain clarity in what proved to be an avalanche of emotions for me. I found myself becoming more resistant. Outwardly, my edges grew harsher and words became weighed and censored while negative thoughts began to take over.  Inwardly, this experience reduced me to feeling like a vulnerable child brimming with uncertainty.  Those of you who are close to me have seen me bob up and down between hope and grief, trying to come to terms with the emptiness of his unoccupied place in my days. I tried to make sense of it all, but often the impact of someone’s life on us isn’t fully understood until we leave our reasoning behind and stay with the ache in our heart.  Lately, my heart has been feeling assaulted.  I have been somewhat reluctant to share this on my blog because Seedlings of Hope was meant to add positivity to my reader’s days, to bring lightness to others and these past few weeks I’ve been feeling anything but. Somewhere in this mental fog, I also remembered that I’d made a personal commitment to honesty and integrity, so here I am, offering what is real and raw and true for me in the moment.

Let me begin by saying that I am incredibly grateful for Joe’s life because I had the opportunity to know him well and learn so much from him. He role modeled a beautiful and simple way of living with presence and connection to others.  Not until faced with his eulogy did I realize just how much he shaped who I am today. That was a challenge, how do you even begin to summarize someone’s life?  Yet in the need to succinctly recap his, I became acutely aware of what mattered to me in my own life. The relationships and things I let fall back, the priorities I hadn’t kept and all the parts of me that remained unmet because I would “Get to that later”. This loss brought grief and heaviness but also the kind of clarity we get when we remember how truly precious and transient life is.

As I tried to work through this existential crisis of sorts, I became more restless and drained.  Perhaps if I understood what was happening I could get a better hold of it… if removed the grain of sand in my happy shoes… sought out the root of the problem and eradicated it… alas,  none of this try-hard stuff worked. Probably ‘cause I was trying so hard. In the end, a loss is a loss. My grandfather’s death triggered a wave of subsequent emotions and events that go beyond logic and reason.  Most losses can have deep repercussions and lead us to question the very notion of life, where it begins and ends, the hows and whys and all the in-betweens.  I learned that in these situations, our head is useless.  Justifications don’t really matter. The pain doesn’t subside with good reason, the questions don’t get appeased, and the process is not shortened by our attempts to speed it along.

Very few deaths go unnoticed and I think I speak for all of us when I say that the mere idea of losing  loved ones and facing painful losses makes us want to give up and cry “Uncle”.  In the past, I have seen family members bury their children, friends lose their young siblings, widows get hollowed out by lost love and I found myself cowardly wishing “Please God, make me go first.” The question I keep asking myself is if death is such a huge part of life, then why are we not better equipped to deal with it?  I don’t like feeling this way but I don’t know how else to be.  How come no one in school ever taught us to speak about death openly?  Why aren’t we given more tools as kids to gain support around our feelings of uncertainty, help us to learn how to be more at peace with all of this stuff? We were exposed to images of a Grim Reaper, of darkness, sadness, fear, hurt, and of a Day of Judgement looming over our heads.  I think I’m not ok with this version of death. In an attempt to think it through and redefine this whole concept, here’s what I know to be true about death right now:

  • Yes, death is an inevitable ending of sorts.  The end of a way of being, not just for the ones that pass away but for the people they leave behind as well. We change and grow and evolve with each nurtured relationship and each lost relationship.
  • Death means change, literally and symbolically (I think I’m not particularly good with change I haven’t initiated).
  • Death means allowing yourself to acknowledge that no matter how much education you arm yourself with, no matter the depth of our life experiences, there is a whole other part of us that is full of the unknown.  Nothing can crack this nut.  No amount of research, introspection, meditation, prayer or avoidance. Nothing can help except perhaps, a little thing called ACCEPTANCE.  By definition, the act of consenting to receive or undertake something offered, in this case the powerful unknown mystery of life.

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So this is where I got stuck and my resistance flared up. I find it crazy difficult to simply surrender into acceptance. And I’m not just talking about this particular moment of dealing with the death of a loved one.  I know I have some work to do here.  You see, my reproach was that I could have been braver, more grateful, more trusting.  I suppose I could have been more apt at explaining things to my young daughters and better at knowing how to console my grieving grandmother.  I wanted to be the kind of person that reacts to life’s challenges with more flexibility and confidence, to respond in the way my best self might, but this time, it wasn’t so.  And I guess the lesson is  that it’s alright.  Heartache can cause us to lose our footing, and that’s ok.  We all have moments when vulnerability and frailty have us feeling a little rattled.  Acceptance of wherever we are with our feelings is pretty much the only thing that will help us trust the process.

Whether it is the loss of a loved one, the death of a career, relationship, pet, friendship, the drastic change in our health, finances, living arrangement… really any ending can impact us profoundly and often take us on some kind of spiritual journey.  I suspect all deaths and changes, big and small have the potential to offer us a little wiggle room for growth.  Perhaps that is the very nature of death, to remind us that our place in this world in not permanent.  We can use this knowledge to propel us to follow our dreams, open our hearts and give it our all.  Despite what we believe, we are not really ever in control of this ride, things can change at any given moment.  Each experience in itself is a gift of some kind as I say to my girls, when someone gives you a gift, even if it’s not your favourite thing, even if you don’t really want it or know what to do with it, just say “thank you” and figure it out later.

 

 

Joy-full

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There is no greater motivator in life than joy.  When we do something that makes us feel good, joy bubbles forth to ignite the yearning for more of the same.  Joy is healing, it’s celebration.  It transcends barriers and allows us to be truly ourselves.  It has an intensity about it all its own. It helps us experience life full-heartedly.   My suggestion? Do more of what you enJOY and keep filling your happiness tank.

  • have a good laugh.  The pee in your pants and cry and hold your sides kind! You may need a to massage your cheeks later, but the massage you’ll just have finished giving your heart will have been worth it.
  • seek emotional connections.  A chat with a friend, a good long hug with a loved one, an afternoon of play with a child, a snuggle with your pet….
  • give more of yourself in things big and small.  It doesn’t really matter if anyone else appreciates or gets what you do, knowing that you did your best at a task at hand will always feel great!
  • sweat the small stuff. Go hard at it on your next workout! Let those armpits ripen and release whatever is nagging at you.  If it’s bothering you, it’s not worth carrying.
  • do something that makes you lose track of time. Always a sure sign of fun:)
  • participate in new activities that take you out of your comfort zone.  When we overcome awkwardness and feelings of uneasiness to successfully acquire a new skill, the confidence boost can be exhilarating.  Personally, I’m happy to know I summoned the courage to try, success is simply a pleasant surprise.
  • speak words that are encouraging and worthwhile.  Keeping positive doesn’t mean spewing empty flattery, it means you made a point of noticing the beauty and goodness in others and are courageous, nice, kind, caring, and supportive enough to share it. See?

And on a parting note, allow me to bring in Webster:

Joy -the Greek word for joy is chara (Antonym: anx­i­ety and worry).  It comes from the word charis, which is derived from the word we know as ‘grace.’ The wonderwall here is that charaor, or joy is borne of the Divine Grace within each of us. Need I say more?

 

3 wise little ones share some thoughts on “How to have a good life”

new year

Noa and Eden, while jumping up and down “Please please pleeeease can we have a play date?”

“Sure.”

Our neighbour, Kate arrives shortly after. “Just find something you girls can play while I work – and no TV.”

In chorus, “What are you working on?”

“Some writing for my blog.”

“What’s a blog?”

Oh boy, I somehow knew I had just opened a can of cyber worms.

“Where do the words go? What’s the internet?  How big is it?  Does it ever run out?  Who reads it?  The whole world?  Really?”  Something I must have said clearly won me a captivated audience.

“What’s it about mommy?” asked Eden in her most endearing voice.

“Hmm, the New Year …and how we can make the most of it… you know, doing our best to listen to our hearts …planning for what we want… stuff like that.”

Noa lit up with enthusiasm, “So if I said something people would listen?”

“I don’t know honey, but if it’s something good you’re saying, it doesn’t hurt to try.”

“I am nearly nine and I know what I would say to help others do good this year” assured Kate.

Here I was struggling to find the right word while these little ones eagerly awaited to spill theirs. So, I ripped three pink papers from the magnetic pad on our fridge and handed them out.  I was curious about what they’d say and figured this could be fun.  Armed with pretty stationery and glittery pens the girls got to work.

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noa, kate & eden

I asked the a few questions to get them going…

1.       If you had a magic wand and could learn one new skill this year what would it be?

Noa – I would learn to be magic and talk to animals.

Kate – I’d want to learn how to go to ‘Book Land’.

Eden – I wanna learn how to garden flowers, and swim really, really well.

2.       What do you think you’re good at?

Noa – Soccer and reading books.

Kate – Pretty much everything.

Eden – Colouring.

3.      What advice would you give others so they could have the best year ever?

Noa – I think people should not litter and they should help the environment.  Listen to other people’s ideas and think. Don’t beat up other people.  Spread love, be kind and care about others.  Never force someone to do something you don’t like.  Give others gifts and help everyone feel special.  Believe in your lovely dreams.  And stop smoking, or if you know someone who does, tell them to stop kindly.

Kate – In general, people should remember to have a good life.  I would say, don’t shoplift, don’t bully, don’t blame others when you did something wrong, admit something if it was you.  Plant gardens to make the planet more beautiful.  Help people who are hurt very badly, and be thankful even if you don’t like the gift you got.

Eden – Go to the park a lot.  Say please and thank you.  Be nice to animals, don’t bully and don’t steal presents or other peoples’ kids!  And if your headband broke and somebody gave you another one, like just the same headband, remember how nice that person is.   And if you listen to bad dreams, be careful, maybe they will come.  Also, don’t make people eat worms because they’re yucky and that’s really not nice.  And never give up.  That’s it.

I was right, this was fun and so much better than what I would have said.  They may be young but they are packed with wisdom, sweetness and a unique perception that is a treasure to witness. Thank you girls, I’ll keep your generous advice close to my heart as I ring in the New Year.

Happy New Year

Roll with it

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Sometimes things don’t turn out as we imagined or hoped for.  This doesn’t mean that a situation is not good, just different from the version that played in our heads. Too often, not getting our way translates to disappointment or hurt instead of having it simply be an opportunity to experience something as is, without judgement. After all, if life unfolded exactly as we wished, it would make for an incredibly boring existence.

It is not difficult to see how the need to control our lives helps us guard against hardships.  What could very well be an act of self-preservation has become deeply rooted in every aspect of our society.  Its evidence can be found in creams that guarantee wrinkles from setting in, pills that help us avoid our feelings, regimens and air bags that keep danger at bay, and websites that promise to find our soulmates.  In reality, nothing is fool-proof.  This should in no way stop us from intending and planning the kind of life we want.  However, it is equally important to know how to release the kung-fu grip we have on those expectations and learn to roll with it.  Any woman who planned for the birth of her child knows this well.  We can plan and hope and prepare, but when it is time, we must simply accept what is happening and do our best with whatever comes at us.  Typically, the most impactful experiences in life are the ones that unfold despite our efforts because in those moments we are challenged to bring our best selves forth.  It is easy to be present and prepared and centered when we puppeteer a situation, but our ability to adjust, our ability to find grace in response to any given experience is when we see our spirit shine.

Last weekend I hoped to create a memorable day for my family as we set out to find our Christmas tree.  I made us a pancake brunch and we left shortly after 11am for Horton’s Magic Hill where a tractor ride, bonfire, and festivities awaited us. We scoured the fields singing “Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, oh where are you hiding…”  My girls chose a beautiful tree and not surprisingly, a very special one that had an abandoned nest perfectly placed near the top branches. We enjoyed a hot apple cider near the bonfire and took leave in early afternoon. We must have gone through a time warp, a worm hole, a mini Bermuda triangle that temporarily moved north… It was an extraordinarily long drive home. I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that the ride back took five times as long as it normally would have. This was not part of my grand plan for a fun day.  I had to be at a Christmas party at four and I was in charge of food and drinks.  As time got away from me and four o’clock approached, my lack of control over the situation ate away at all the peace I had felt earlier that morning.  I didn’t want to disappoint my friends by being late and was so worried about letting them down that I failed to see how I was already letting my loved ones down by dissipating all the joy felt earlier. Even when I finally did make it to the Christmas party, it took some effort to relax and actually be present.  I kept wondering at how the day could have gone better.

Things took an unexpected turn, a different ending, that’s all.  So instead of going home and decorating our tree while singing carols and finishing the day off with hot chocolate and holiday cheer, we hurled the tree in the house and raced out muddy and dishevelled. I had no control over the delay that derailed my day, but then again, I had not counted on having extremely grateful kids that made the best of their time and didn’t complain once -and I certainly hadn’t planned to find my new favourite ornament nestled within tree branches.  Each time I look at it I wonder if its architect had ever pictured this nest tucked among gold stars and twinkle lights.  I bet that talented mama bird hadn’t planned for her beautifully crafted nest to gift another mama with much heartfelt gratitude.

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The darndest things -chicken pox

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one smart little chick

(Noa, when speaking about the importance of getting vaccines even though the needles hurt)

“What’s chicken pox mommy? ”

“Well, it’s a virus that makes you sick.  Red itchy dots appear all over your body and kids are more likely to get it than adults which is why you should get the vaccine.”

“Like, all over… ALL OVER?”  she raised a concerned eyebrow, “Even on your privates?”

“Yup, and your face and your hands.  I wish they had vaccines for it when I was little.  It can get quite uncomfortable and if your scratch the sores, you get scars like the one I have on my forehead.”

She looked closely, “Oh, that’s what that hole is.”

“It is not a hole, thank you very much.  It’s a constant reminder of many days at home bored and covered in calamine lotion -that’s a lotion for the itchiness.  One day I was playing cards and lost at Go Fish.  It was a dumb mistake.  I slapped my forehead and felt a pop.”

She caressed my forehead gently and tilted her head in empathy “How old were you when you got the chicken dots?” she asked.

“I was twelve,” suddenly I was flooded with the same adolescent drama of this unfairness, ” I got teased so badly.  Some kids called it a Paki-Dot, which is very rude and inaccurate so never say that. I hated it.”

“So for only twelve years you didn’t have it?”

“That’ s right’ ”

“Think of all the years it’s been with you.  It went everywhere with you.”

“You’re right honey, it’s not really a big deal.  I don’t really mind any more,”

I paused, wondering at the depth this was taking.

“But you gotta love it too mommy.  It’s so cute.  You had it for so long, it’s kinda like a friend.”

“I guess it is.  It gives me a story to tell and it’s what makes my face look like me now.”

“That’s how I’ll always know it’s you.”  she assured while lightly hovering over the scar with her index finger.

“Ok mommy, you can let the doctor pinch me with the needle”.♥